More gossip surrounding Bauer Media in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Private Sydney.
Bauer magazine empire loses more gloss
It was once referred to as Sydney’s Tower of Power when the late Kerry Packer walked the corridors of 54 Park Street, corralling his legions of glamazons and producing some of the finest, most ground-breaking and profitable women’s magazines in the world.
But this week insiders at the once great magazine empire were describing a scene straight out of The Hunger Games. As one senior writer noted: “there are people sobbing in their cubicles, it’s appalling”.
In 2012 Germany’s Bauer Media paid a whopping $525 million to James Packer to buy out the family’s publishing empire, a sale which would see iconic mastheads such as Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, Australian Gourmet Traveller, Cleo and Belle, all titles pioneered by Australians for Australians, fall into foreign hands under the leadership of billionaire Bauer heiress, Yvonne Bauer.
Rivals now estimate the Australian business could be worth around a quarter of what family-owned Bauer paid, while constant upheaval in senior management ranks and controversial moves, such as sourcing articles from German magazines and translating them into English before “dumping” them into Australian titles, has further eroded the publishing house’s reputation with both advertisers and readers.
In the years that followed Bauer’s buyout at Park Street, the German company which proudly espouses the credo “We Think Popular”, began a campaign of shutting down magazines, with the likes of Madison, Women’s Fitness, Grazia, Zoo Weekly, Bourke’s Backyard, BBC Good Food and martial arts title UFC all being killed off.
On Wednesday the worst kept secret in Australian media was confirmed when Cleo magazine was unceremoniously axed after 44 years, resulting in yet more job losses and further damaging the Bauer Media brand in Australia, which just days before said rumours Cleo was folding were “pure speculation”.
Bauer also announced this week that sister magazine Dolly had effectively been shrunk by half as it focuses on the digital world rather than magazines, further alienating the masthead from the millions of women who grew up reading it, while rumours persist its two biggest money earners, Woman’s Day and the Australian Women’s Weekly, will soon be merged, with one editor overseeing both titles and yet more job losses.
Last week AWW editor-in-chief Helen McCabe announced she was leaving the magazine after six-and-a-half years at the helm and with apparently no job to go. She was put on six months’ “gardening leave” within days of the news coming out, while insiders told PS it was precipitated by “yet another meeting with management in which she found herself banging her head against the same walls she has been banging her head up against ever since Bauer first took over.”
PS’s repeated calls to various management remain unanswered, including interim CEO Andreas Schoo, a former lawyer who is one of Yvonne Bauer’s right-hand men in Hamburg who was dispatched to Sydney following previous CEO David Goodchild’s sudden departure last December after just one year in the job. Goodchild followed Matthew Stanton, who quit Bauer after six years, a move which prompted Yvonne Bauer to issue a note to staff admitting it had been a “tumultuous few years” for the Australian operation.
“What an understatement,” one of Bauer’s Australian editors told PS at the time.